Proton Pump Inhibitors Linked to Higher Dementia Risk: The Chinese Medicine Alternatives

We face a national epidemic of Dementia as baby boomers who have spent years on Heartburn Medication like Prilosec, Protonixx, and Nexium,  hit their 60’s and 70’s, while at the same time medical researchers are now showing that heartburn medication is linked to increased risk for dementia and other cognitive problems.  Here is today’s Harvard Health Letter letter reporting on the latest research

Research published online on February 15 in JAMA Neurology showed that there may be an association between chronic use of PPIs and an increased risk of dementia. Experts compared prescription PPI intake and diagnosis of dementia among approximately 74,000 adults ages 75 and older. In the study, chronic PPI use was defined as at least one prescription every three months in an 18-month window.chronic PPI users had a 44% increased risk of dementia compared with those who did not take any medication. Men were at a slightly higher risk than women.

Diet and Lifestyle The Cornerstone of Gut Health

The sad truth here is that Western Medicine, and even the way some of my colleagues practice Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, tries, quite foolishly really, to treat with drugs what is created by a lifestyle. The problem is it does not work that way. You can’t get a great nutritious meal from a pack of instant ramen any more than you can get health and wellness from a disease creating lifestyle treated with a pill, or an herb, or even an acupuncture treatment. Even acupuncture, while it does so much for your nervous system so you can get bodily functions back on the right track, has to be accompanied by an honest appraisal of one’s diet and lifestyle to be most effective.

Lifestyle Includes Managment of your Nervous System Vagus Function

If, for example, you have gastritis and/or GERD from a combination of a bad diet and an anxious, hyper-intense lifestyle, all acupuncture can do is get you back to zero so you can start to make the lifestyle changes that you need to be healthy again. Its that simple, and that challenging for some.

The problem with the abuse of Proton Pump Inhibitors like Prilosec is that for the short term they enable you to go back to eating all the foods that made you sick in the first place, and to eating any food in the wrong way (in a hurry, without chewing well, while working, accompanied by ice water), and finally to ignoring the mind aspect of the problem, namely tension and anxiety.

If you have to take a Proton Pump Inhibiting drug fro GERD every single day, then you have to ask the obvious question, even if your MD does not, “What is going on here? What am I doing wrong? What is wrong with my diet and/or lifestyle?

There are many western medical doctors who now agree. From a recent New York Times article referred to in this article of mine GERD treated by Blue Poppy brand Gastroquell and Classical Chinese Acupuncture  

“When people take P.P.I.’s, they haven’t cured the problem of reflux,” said Dr. Joseph Stubbs, an internist in Albany, Ga., and a former president of the American College of Physicians. “They’ve just controlled the symptoms.”

And P.P.I.’s provide a way for people to avoid making difficult lifestyle changes, like losing weight or cutting out the foods that cause heartburn, he said. “People have found, ‘I can keep eating what I want to eat, and take this and I’m doing fine,’ ” he said. “We’re starting to see that if you do that, you can run into some risky side effects.”

The Gut and the Nervous System: The Second Brain

Like most MD’s what Dr. Stubbs is leaving out of the equation, for reasons I can’t honestly fathom, is the relationship between how the gut works and how our nervous systems work. This is critical in the development of GERD, Gastritis, Esophogeal Neurosis, IBS, Diverticulitis, and Ulcerative Colitis. Its described, quite elegantly, in the book  by Michael Gershon, M.D., the Second Brain , about Nervous System disorders of the Gut.

And what is key is that our nervous system is hard wired to register the effects of both acute and chronic fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, and tension, in our guts. Hence we say, in English, that we have a “gut feeling” about something, we describe intuition sometimes as an inchoate sensation in the gut, because we actually have so many neurons that in fact do register how we feel about things even when in a civil society we have trained ourselves to ignore our gut.

This ranges from small things like not complaining to the waiter about having been served the steak you ordered well done rare, because you have not been taught to be assertive, to existential fears of death and dying and all things inbetween.

This is where practices like Mindfulness meditation come in, because the goal of mindfulness is Awareness. When you are frightened you know you are frightened. When you are angry you know you are angry. When you know you are angry or frustrated, then you dont have to act on it and you have a better fighting chance, pun intended, of working through the issue rather than slamming something against the wall.

It all comes back down to the fact that our negative emotions make our Qi stagnate, they cause tension, and tension is the opposite of free flowing movement, and life is, at its core, free flowing movement, and death, or the absence of life is defined as the cessation of movement, right. That is why mindfulness begins with awareness of the flow of the in and out breath, which is at the essence of what it means to be alive.  Always moving, the continuous present, in and out. We can live with out food and even water for a while, but without breath?

How I Treat GERD, Heartburn, and other digestive disorders.

The natural treatment of these diseases, if you really, really, really, really, really want to get better so that you don’t in the end need to get acupuncture or take herbs all the time,  involves getting to the root of the problem: your dysfunctional nervous system. This takes time and can be both simple and complex. Ultimately it involves understanding first of all, in Ayurvedic terms, what kind of nervous system you came into the world with. Do you respond to stressors with fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, intensity, or dis-association, another words with fight, flight, or freeze. Do you routinely feel nervous, do you routinely feel impatient, etc.

A lot of us have just never thought about our lives this way. I use acupuncture to regulate the Qi of the Gut. The great thing about Acupuncture is that it directly affects the very nervous system that is so dysfunctional in digestive disorders. It gets you slowed down and relaxed and aids the process of mindfulness and awareness, of seeing things as they are.

In the meanwhile I give Chinese Herbal Formulas of different types for different problems, always based on the Chinese defined pattern of disharmony. There is no single formula that treats GERD or IBS, there are formulas that treat Damp Heat in the Stomach with Liver Depression Qi Stagnation, or Blood Stasis in the Stomach with Food Stagnation. There are formulas that tend to be used for particular gut issues, e.g. Bao He Wan for belching of food after meals with a sensation of food stuck in the stomach, or Ban Xia Huo Po Tang, for when people with anxiety feel as if there is something stuck in the throat, what Chinese Medicine calls “plum pit qi” because you feel like you swallowed a small plum pit.

Most gut disorders resolve really really well when you pay attention to the causes. Most patients need from 6-12 acupuncture treatments to get back on track, faster if they do their homework, slower if not. You can often expect to take herbal medicines for one month for each year you have had the problem in the case of chronic issues, and 2-3 months for acute problems. The good thing is you can expect to get better pretty quickly.

Next up: Gut Disorder Case Studies

copyright eyton shalom, san diego ca 2016 all rights reserved use with permission

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